I find it ironic sometimes that while I strongly believe in the importance of facilitation and very much enjoy doing it, there are certain elements of being a member of a group that I dislike. In fact, I’m anything but a joiner. I tend to move away from any long term involvement with groups. Why is this? Do any of you feel the same way? I feel that this is an important thing to explore for other group leaders who might feel the same way.
There are many documented reasons to dislike groups:
None of us is as dumb as all of us. Groups tend to descend and cater to the lowest common denominator. In other words, in trying to be inclusive, group function can fall to the level of the least capable participant. English author and statesman T.B. Macaulay, put it this way, Groups of individuals are far more likely to err than individuals. Groups give reign to instincts which individuals acting alone are forced to keep in check. Smart people just seem to leave part of their judgment at the door when they go into a meeting. (Kieffer, George David, The Strategy of Meetings, Simon and Shcuster, 1988).
Further, when subject to the collective attention of a group, we’re more likely to fixate on data, ideas, options in the interest of consensus than engage in deeper more expansive exploration that we might perform individually. See this article citing these findings in several studies.
Group work is messy and complex. Because group process is more complex than your typical one-on-one conversation, they require a lot more time and effort to achieve a decision or a conclusion.
Groups are subject to group think. Most of us feel a need to be accepted by the groups we affiliate with. Over time, our need and desire to be accepted my overshadow our willingness to express ourselves authentically. Or, unpopular ideas, opinions, or attitudes in the eyes of the group culture may inadvertently marginalize or inhibit your participation.
Groups exert cultural influences. Every group has a culture of some kind. By culture, I mean there are certain norms, stories, and senses about what’s acceptable, what isn’t, what’s right and what’s wrong, etc. Many group cultures mirror the larger social culture to maintain a safe sense of pseudo-community, i.e. political correctness. These groups can be stifling to mentally and emotionally healthy and creative individuals.
Here are some things to consider before joining (remaining in) an ongoing group
Be willing to leave a group at any time mutual benefit ceases to be realized. Remember the movie, “Ocean’s 11?” In this film, 11 brilliant thieves, all successful in their own right, came together to pull off the heist of the century for mutual benefit, then went back to their own lives. I’m not suggesting you join a group for this purpose, but the principle is the same. When your purpose with a group is complete, feel free to move on. If you need any group to feel good about yourself, support groups perhaps excluded, the group will be better off if you get your needs met elsewhere.
Assure your group is willing to hear, and if appropriate act, on contrarion opinions and ideas. Any group that is stuck in dogmatic and rigid thinking is by definition a stagnant entity that can’t well respond to the dynamics of real life. Unless you’re comfortable in a tight container such as this, you’ll do well to move on.
Seek a cultural fit. Your entry into a new group will impact its culture, and vice versa. Either you’re a good fit such that you and the group will be invigorated by your participation, or not. Seek groups with a healthy culture that supports ways of being that are good for both individual and collective well-being, and that are open to critique, feedback and evolution.
What do you hate about groups? What do you do about it? I invite you to share your questions, feedback, or experience on this topic in the comments section below.